As a leader, you have to be visible.

One cannot be a leader on one’s own. To be a leader is to be recognized as one.

And to be recognized as a leader, one has to Be, to Do and to Relate. This post is the first of three posts on the leader within us.

Living in a world focused on productivity and efficiency, I want to speak about being in a space where the essence of our self matters as much as, if not more than, what we do and what we achieve.

What does a leader embody?

1. Be human
Leaders are first and foremost, human beings with the human need to make meaning and find purpose in life. To make meaning of our professional life requires us to be aware of who we are and why we are here, to know our raison d’être and the values which inform each of them. Take time to ponder and reflect on these. There is a time and place for stillness, quiet and solitude. Practice it.

2. Be courageous
Leaders have courage to envision a future where we can make a difference, a future where we can be of service and on a journey that is uniquely ours. We cannot ‘get’ courage, it is gained through experience. The more we practice courage, the more we feel courageous and the more we are. So say ‘yes’ to being ‘volunteered’ to present the team’s outcomes, put your hand up to organize the staff retreat, speak up for what you believe in. Every step, no matter its size, counts.

3. Be committed
Leaders are committed to the journey we have envisioned, and see with clarity the destination ahead. We are also adaptable to the challenges occurring at any moment on that journey. We are open to the possibilities that present themselves and thus responsive to the events occurring sometimes beyond our control. Do what you love. And if what you do isn’t all that you love, find within what you do, the one aspect, that gem which gives your heart a skip, that brings a smile to your face. There is always one.

4. Be curious
Leaders have a desire for life-long learning. By this, I don’t mean the next formal qualification. It is about being curious of our world, being attentive to the changes. Leaders are curious about everything and all the time. We want to know why something is so, why something must be so, how one thing can be something else, how to get something to work… And through our learning, we can sensibly anticipate what is coming. The next time someone provides you with information, adopt a curious posture, almost child-like, and ask ‘why’ and ‘how’. Go beyond the surface, probe and seek to understand.

5. Be humble
Leaders are not afraid to admit their mistakes, to take responsibility for their words and acts. Leaders are open to new, different and better ideas and solutions. Ultimately it is not about whose is better but rather about reaching our goal. Ego battles have no place in a leader’s repertoire. When you next feel threatened, when your heart constricts and your stomach is in knots, when you just want to say ‘no’, don’t. Stop and consider if it is about your ego or do you have a valid reason for those sensations.

6. Be vulnerable
To be a leader is to be in a vulnerable state. I say this because to be human is to be open to all that life throws at us, to be courageous necessarily means we will sometimes fail, by being committed we may be confronted with betrayal, being curious can lead us to paths we ought not to have taken, to be humble may expose us to ridicule and derision. Yet it is only through our vulnerability that we can experience our greatest courage, that we make authentic connections. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, there is no better or truer alternative.

7. Be mindful
Perhaps because of all the ‘be’ above, it would serve leaders well to be mindful. We need to develop a focused awareness on the present moment, to attend to what we do or say and how we carry our role, to be empathic and compassionate to those with whom we work, to model self-compassion and self-care when they are required.

Being a leader is thus about travelling deep within our self to realise that which is us, to be unafraid to show who we truly are and in that, to be vulnerable in our strength.
It is only when we know our self that we can know others, and this is crucial to being a leader.
Leaders don’t have all the answers. We don’t need to. We are the glue that holds the team together, the gentle force that progresses the goal, the presence that facilitates growth and achievement.

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